4 roles to have on your incident response team for efficiency and the fastest resolution times

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Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say.

While it’s quite an overused phrase, there is quite a bit of truth to it. At its heart, the idea of teamwork making things, well, easier, is accurate. When folks don’t have to tackle tasks on their own, things become easier to manage and get resolved much faster as a result. At the end of the day, as a team, we’re all working towards a common goal.

Such is the case with incident response.

It should be a surprise to no one that incident response is never a one-person task. Efficient incident response requires a team of individuals in order to diagnose, triage, resolve, and monitor any issues that rise to the surface.

But there’s an important point to be made here: that team has to be structured appropriately with clearly defined expectations, roles and responsibilities. If not, it’ll be a mad dash to the finish and an every-person-for-themselves mentality will creep in.

In this blog post, I’m going to talk through exactly that: how to best structure your incident response team to ensure quick resolution, clear swim lanes, and operational efficiency. I'll also outline some of the most critical roles you'll want to hire for.

That said, every organization is different and will have unique needs, so use this as a foundation for structuring your own incident response teams in the way it makes most sense for you.

What is an incident response team, and why do you need one?

Incident response teams are a very important function within any organization, especially those with a technical product. In summary, an incident response team (IRT) is typically a group of engineers within your business who are responsible for identifying, managing, and mitigating the impact of incidents.

What is defined as an incident varies from org to org, but generally speaking incidents can range from system outages to significant cyberattacks that threaten your assets, data, and reputation.

Here at, we’ve taken the stance that most every-day issues should actually be called incidents if they cause a disruption of any kind. Case in point, we declared an incident when we ran out of t-shirts at KubeCon recently.

Either way, the primary goal of dedicated incident response efforts is to minimize the impact of these issues and ensure you can quickly return to full capacity, however that may be defined.

But it goes beyond just responding to incidents and fixing them. An incident response team’s insights will give you the knowledge you need to build better products over time, and highlight any areas of improvement in your organization.

Here are the areas that incident response teams focus on.

Incident detection and response

This one is probably the most obvious, but an incident response team will help you, well, respond to incidents!

A well-structured incident response team can quickly detect and analyze security incidents or operational incidents, enabling you to respond swiftly and mitigate potential damage. Early detection and response can be crucial in preventing further escalation of an incident and minimizing its impact.

Compliance with any federal regulations or contractual obligations

Many companies must comply with regulatory requirements for incident response and management, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States.

A dedicated incident response plan helps ensure your organization complies with these regulations and avoids potential penalties.

Reducing financial and reputational risks

A well-prepared incident response team can significantly reduce the financial and reputational damage caused by any type of incident, whether it's a security breach or your largest customer threatening to leave.

By promptly addressing customer issues and communicating transparently with stakeholders, an IRT can help maintain customer trust and protect your brand.

Continuous improvement to processes and structure

Incident response team members analyze the root causes of incidents and implement remedial actions to prevent similar events from occurring. This continuous improvement process helps strengthen your security posture and products over time.


An effective incident response team educates all employees about best practices, the organization's incident response processes, and best practices for reducing other types of incidents, such as system outages, staff shortages, and customer service errors.

Important roles to have in an effective incident response team

Your incident response team structure should consist of a diverse range of engineers with different skill sets and expertise.

Each member is crucial in ensuring the team functions efficiently and effectively in managing and mitigating cybersecurity issues and other types of incidents, big or small.

Here are some of the most important incident response team roles. Again, every team and organization is different, so be sure to use this list in a way that makes sense for your unique needs.

Incident lead

An incident lead oversees the entire incident response process, manages resources, and makes critical decisions during an incident. Choose someone to head your team (including on-call teams) who has strong leadership, communication, and decision-making skills so they can coordinate the team's efforts and ensure their response is well-organized and effective.

Communication coordinators

Effective communication is a primary concern during any incident.

Communication coordinators are responsible for ensuring clear and timely communication among team members, as well as with external stakeholders, such as customers, partners, and regulators. Depending on the size and maturity of your organization, they may also manage public relations and media communications to maintain your reputation during and after the incident.

Depending on the size of your business, you may need a lead communication coordinator and internal and external communication coordinators.

Accountable executive

Sometimes, especially with incidents of higher severity or ones that impact certain surfaces, it’s helpful to have a member of the leadership team around to make any high-impact decisions on the fly.

While this is a less of a must-have, it’s probably wise to factor this in as a “break-in-case-of-emergency” role.

While it’s not ideal, sometimes incidents can have wide-ranging effects that creep into the world of law. For cases like these, it’s a good idea to have a legal liaison on tap for any incidents that require legal considerations.

Legal support professionals, including in-house counsel or external legal advisers, help the IRT navigate these complex legal issues by providing advice on legal obligations, potential liabilities, and strategies for managing legal risks.

They may also assist in drafting and reviewing communications related to the incident, ensuring that your actions and messaging align with legal requirements.

Best practices for building your incident response team

Building an effective incident response team requires careful planning and consideration of various factors, including the structure of your organization. The following best practices will set your team and your company up for success:

Develop an incident response policy

Create a comprehensive policy outlining the objectives, scope, and procedures for incident response. Clearly defining what an incident is and isn't will get your team on the same page when coordinating their response.

Don't limit your definition of an incident to cybersecurity threats. Train everyone in your organization to think about anything that can go wrong as an incident so they can collaborate better regardless of the source of the problem.

Assemble a diverse team

Select incident response team members with diverse skill sets and expertise to ensure that your IRT can address the different aspects of an incident and work collaboratively to resolve it effectively.

Provide training and development

Regularly train and update your IRT members on the latest cybersecurity threats, best operational practices, and emergency preparedness plans.

Conduct regular simulations and exercises: Simulate minor and major incidents to test and evaluate the effectiveness of your IRT and its response procedures. Testing helps identify gaps and weaknesses in your team's capabilities and allows you to make improvements as needed.

Establish clear communication protocols

Develop and implement clear communication protocols to ensure effective information sharing and collaboration during an incident. Communication protocols are especially important for remote teams.

Define metrics and KPIs

Establish metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of your IRT and its response to incidents. These measurements will identify areas for improvement and allow you to track progress over time.

Foster a culture of awareness

Encourage a culture of security awareness and vigilance throughout your organization by conducting regular employee training, awareness campaigns, and communication of the importance of incident preparedness.

Collaborate with external partners

Establish relationships with external partners, such as law enforcement agencies, industry associations, and cybersecurity vendors. Don't wait for an emergency to connect with your external partners.

Continuously review and update your incident response plan

Regularly review and update your incident response policy, procedures, and team structure to ensure they remain effective and relevant. Incorporate lessons learned from past incidents and stay current with the latest cybersecurity threats and trends.

That said, a good incident management tool is critical here

All of this means nothing if you aren’t using a dedicated incident management and response tool that makes it easy to assign roles, and remind folks of what their responsibilities are when assuming those roles.

With, doing this is quick, and above all, easy.

With our tool, you can very easily select whatever Roles exist within your organization. And during incidents, responders can quickly declare themselves as lead if someone hasn’t done so already. They can also hand off incident lead responsibilities should something else come up.

And when folks do designate a specific role, they’ll always be prompted to complete whatever tasks or actions you require of that role. For example, you can create a nudge to let incident leads know to update your company’s status page throughout the incident, or ask your communications lead to send Slack updates every few hours.

If you’re ready to see how our tool makes incident response teams work better, faster, and more collaboratively, be sure to reach out to schedule a custom demo.

Operational excellence starts here